(RTTNews.com) - After moving sharply higher over the course of the previous session, stocks may see some further upside in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by 78 points.
The upward momentum for the markets comes as traders continue to react positively to the Federal Reserve's monetary policy announcement Wednesday afternoon.
While the Fed left interest rates unchanged as expected, the central bank signaled that a rate hike is likely before the end of the year.
Reflecting division within the committee, Kansas City Fed President Esther George
, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester
and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren
voted to raise rates by a quarter point.
The Fed is widely expected to leave rates unchanged at the November meeting due to the subsequent president election, but many analysts are targeting the December meeting for a rate hike.
On the U.S. economic front, the Labor Department recently released a report showing an unexpected drop in initial jobless claims in the week ended September 17th.
The report said initial jobless claims fell to 252,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 260,000. The decline surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to inch up to 262,000.
Shortly after the start of trading, the National Association of Realtors is scheduled to release its report on existing home sales in the month of August.
Existing home sales are expected to climb to an annual rate of 5.44 million in August after falling by 3.2 percent to a rate of 5.39 million in September.
The Conference Board is also due to release its leading economic indicators index for August, which is expected to inch up by 0.1 percent.
With traders reacting positively to the Fed's monetary policy announcement, stocks moved sharply higher over the course of the trading session on Wednesday. The upward move lifted the tech-heavy Nasdaq to a new record closing high.
The major averages pulled back off their highs of the session going into the close but remained firmly positive. The Dow advanced 163.74 points or 0.9 percent to 18,293.70, the Nasdaq jumped 53.83 points or 1 percent to 5,295.18 and the S&P 500 surged up 23.36 points or 1.1 percent to 2,163.12.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved to the upside on Thursday, although the Japanese markets were closed for a holiday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose by 0.4 percent, while Australia's All Ordinaries Index climbed by 0.7 percent.
The major European markets have moved sharply higher on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index has shot up by 1.4 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index are soaring by 2.1 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively.
In commodities trading, crude oil futures are climbing $0.84 to $46.18 a barrel after jumping $1.29 to $45.34 a barrel on Wednesday. Gold futures are currently trading at $1,341.10 an ounce, up $9.70 from the previous session's close of $1,331.40 an ounce. On Wednesday, gold gained $8.10.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 100.67 yen compared to the 100.32 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.1240 compared to yesterday's $1.1189.
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